Some of the individual lines in this book of prose poems
are stunning. I particularly like these ones:
'The world is clanking: noun, noun, noun. Sand in the shoe doesn't make you
'Butter-gloved epiphanies slide past us in their muscle car.'
'Idly I turned your name into a kite.'
While we dug up the garden of western expansion, my witty rope frayed.'
'Without its leaky reverie, the face is a shield.'
'The devil's in shirtsleeves, smoking with Vandals.'
'I don't remember my first brush with pollen, yet I've watched words flower
sideways across your mouth.'
'The boy assigned to find the missing ball has climbed my mental fence and
'Of further benefit, America owns the moon.'
'Even if I don't write it down, I'm just a form of tuning. I take this green
to build my shirt. I do this work to word you.'
'A bee in its lace is the author of something.'
'This is my heart, a bird in the building. So much for paratactic
It's for lines like these that I read poetry. And try to write it, or 'word
it' as Willis puts it. I wish I could have written some of these lines. But
there's little else here that interested me. This new book is, apparently 'a
stunning collision of the pastoral tradition with the politics of the post
industrial age.' I couldn't see much evidence of the 'pastoral tradition' at
all; nor 'the politics of the post industrial age', save for one lame reference
to us all living 'under the rule of Pepsi', that line about 'Western
expansion', and the other about 'America owning the moon'. There was no
stunning collision, such as the meteor that may have wiped out the Cretaceous
However, there is a welcome feminist discourse, and it was interesting that Willis's 'texts' (neither poems,
nor prose poems, but 'texts' mind you) borrow from the poems of Erasmus
Darwin Ð late 18th Century botanist, poet, philosopher of science, and
grandfather of Charles. That kind of relationship between books, writers,
ideas and times is interesting.
Or can be. The interrelationships here are hermetic and obscure; masked by
Willis's processes and agenda. This, to me, reads like a hugely
The titles of Willis's 'texts' are drawn from Darwin's own work. The sudden
leaps of Darwin's poems are cited as: 'an apt model for riding out the
inter-discursive noise of the early twenty-first century.' Again, how that
actually works remains pretty much hidden. Unless of course you are a reader
who is well stuck into the deconstruction of 'interdiscursivity', of the
non-narrative narrative that is postmodernity. The prose cantos (cantos, no
less, like Pound wrote Ð best give that a capital C) and lyric interruptions
of Meteoric Flowers reverse the
relation between prose and verse in Darwin's work. In fact, the 'cantos' are
simply 4 equal-length sections of 13 prose poems, each interrupted by a
single snippet of free verse, such as this in toto entitled 'Errata':
for poetry, read
for his, read
for the, read
"departure of gnomes"
"transmigration of matter"
frigorific, read frigorescent
for her, read
Firstly, this 'lyric interruption' is an idea unashamedly stolen from Paul
Muldoon's poem in his collection Hay (published at the end of the last century, done much better by Muldoon and, it must
be added, an idea he himself borrowed from OuLiPo-ian processes). It has also
cropped up in a number of other poems over the years. Secondly, that
word/world thing; that's undergraduate thinking and wordplay isn't it? I've
seen that one crop up in many many writing classes. Thirdly, isn't this just
a lame list; a list that is doing nothing more than dressing itself up as
something else (for lame, read lamé)?
'A poem is a meteor' goes the epigram from Wallace Stevens. Although Meteoric
Flowers does bloom to some degree at the
level of individual line and of conceptual framework, on the meteor front
it's more of a short firework display.